Social Network Analysis (SNA)

Social Network Analysis (SNA)

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The mapping, measuring and comparison of relationships within and between individuals, groups, organizations, and systems in order to model the real-world interactions at the heart of knowledge organization and learning processes. While an organizational chart shows formal relationships of function and responsibility, SNA illustrates informal relationships: "who knows whom" and "who shares with whom". SNA is used to examine how the interactions occur within an organization, allowing leaders to visualize and understand the diverse relationships that either facilitate or impede knowledge sharing. After social relationships and knowledge flows become visible, they can be evaluated, compared and measured. The results of SNA can be applied at the level of individuals, departments or organizations to:

  • Identify those (individuals and groups) playing central roles (thought leaders, key knowledge brokers, information managers, etc);
  • Identify bottlenecks and those isolated;
  • Spot opportunities to improve knowledge flow;
  • Target those where better knowledge sharing will have the most impact;
  • Raise awareness of the significance of informal networks.

SNA is sometimes referred to as an "organizational X-ray", showing the real networks that operate underneath the surface of the organization structure.[1]

Into the book "The Hidden Power of Social Networks" (Harvard Business, 2004), the authors Rob Cross & Andrew Parker outline a host of specific and inexpensive actions at the individual, group, and organizational levels that can help promote vibrant employee networks by:

  • Supporting partnership and alliances
  • Assessing strategy execution
  • Improving strategic decision making in top leadership networks
  • Integrating networks accross core processes
  • Promoting innovation
  • Ensuring integration post-merger or large-scale change
  • Developing communities of practice. [2]

Link icon.png Web Resources
Below you have a list of selected websites where you can find additional information on SNA:
Link Content
Knowing What We Know: Supporting Knowledge Creation and Sharing in Social Networks An article by Rob Cross & Al. on supporting knowledge creation and sharing in Social Networks.
Making Invisible Work Visible: Using social network analysis to support strategic collaboration An article from the California Management Review on how to leverage “Invisible” Social Networks for Visible Results .


  1. (25 July 2008) , (25 July 2008) , (25 July 2008) , (25 July 2008)
  2. The Hidden Power of Social Networks, Rob Cross & Andrew Parker, Harvard Business School Press, 2004, (3 November 2008)